Maury Wills, an icon of the Los Angeles Dodgers and one of the greatest baseball kidnappers in baseball history, died Monday night at his home in Arizona, the team said. He was 89. The Dodgers would wear the Mills patch on their jerseys for the remainder of the season.
“Maury Wills was one of the most exciting Dodgers of all time,” Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten said in a statement. “He changed baseball with his baseball run and made the stolen base an important part of the game. He has been a huge contributor to the Dodgers’ success with three world championships.”
A seven-time All-Star and 1962 National League MVP, Wills helped return to a stolen base and rise to prominence in a 14-year career spanning 1959 to 1972. He stole 104 bases in 1962, then the most by any AL or NL player in the 20th century, and ended his career with 586 steals. Wills ranks 20th in career stolen bases.
Wills grew up in Washington, D.C. and spent eight seasons in the minor leagues before making his debut for the Dodgers at age 26 in 1959. The quick stop helped Los Angeles win the World Series that season, and the following year, he became the first NL player to steal 50 bases in a season since Hall of Famer Max Carey in 1923.
During his peak from 1960 to 1969, Wills hit .286/.335/.337 and averaged 54 stolen bases per year. He led the Dodgers to championships in 1959, 1963, and 1965, and another NL pennant in 1966. During his MVP season, Wills hit .299/.347/.373 with those 104 stolen bases. Wills retired with 2,134 career hits and led his league in steals each year from 1960 to 1965.
After a playing career that included appearances with the Pirates (1967–68) and The Expo (1969), and after returning to the Dodgers (1969–72), Wills spent some time on the air and as a running instructor. with multiple teams. also had an ill-fated tenure as Mariners manager from 1980–81. In recent years, he has served as a spokesman for the Dodgers Legends Bureau.
Wills appeared on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot every year from 1978 to 1992, although he never received more than 40.6 percent of the vote, well short of the 75 percent required for induction. Wills was also featured on the 2014 and 2022 Golden Era Committee ballots, but again failed to gain enough support to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Wills is survived by his wife Carla and six children.